Best Traffic Jam in the World

6.1.20

Sunday morning, May 31st I went on an errand.  My intent was to follow my heart and bring two simply packed bags of groceries to a middle school in Minneapolis. I had seen the call on social media, for very specific pantry goods, and gone shopping because, that was something I could easily do in my third-ring suburban neighborhood where stores were still standing and open for business. 

I dutifully bought the apples and carrots, the tortillas and rice, the beans and the soup, the box of cereal and the bag of cookies. But the bread was absent from my store’s shelves.  So, I went to a second store and finally, a third in order to find two loaves of bread.

I’m not the sort of person to do whatever social media tells me to do, but this particular week, the request touched my heart.  It was something simple that I COULD do.  I had the resources, I could afford the time, and I could get it done almost before my husband woke up on Sunday morning.

You see, I can’t go out and march for hours of endless protest, even if I might be moved to do that.  I can’t spend all day sweeping up the debris or covering the broken windows with plywood, these are not my skill-set and my arthritis would itself protest.  My path is already determined; I am my husband’s caregiver.  He has Alzheimer’s, and there is no back-up for my role; Managing that work requires most of my time and much of my attention.

But I did make time to go grocery shopping, even though I had to travel to three stores to complete my task.  I did fill my two bags with groceries. I did get up and dressed and checked the delivery address again, putting it into the GPS of my phone.  I wrote my husband a quick note, not explaining myself in much detail, so when he woke and came to his usual chair, he would know I’d be back as soon as I could.

So I drove the 20 miles to my destination, a relatively quiet corner of town where the middle school is situated.  On my way, I passed a burned-out gas station, one I used to visit when I worked in that vicinity, near the Mississippi River Parkway. It made me sad.  As I approached the school’s address, it became clear that I was in the right place, cars were everywhere, lined up for blocks, for miles.  They were filtering through narrow city streets.  Some folks were parking and emptying their cars of groceries, diapers and laundry detergent, to walk the last block or so to their drop-off destination.

I stayed in my car. I followed the orderly line of traffic. I yielded at the intersections to the community members who were directing the cars and the foot traffic for a measure of safety.  I finally got to a place in the street where a small band of volunteers helped me unload my donation. I was amazed by what I saw, thousands of bags of groceries, wheel-barrows filled with laundry soap, red wagons loaded with Pampers.  It buoyed my spirits, lifted me up and carried me all through the day.

In the end, that middle school was able to feed not only its own children (having estimated their need at 85 bags of groceries) but to send hundreds of bags of donated food to neighborhoods across Minneapolis.  I had been part of the best traffic jam in the world, in the midst of a week full of heart-wrenching tumult that had torn our cities apart. The phrase that came to me was, “loaves and fishes.” I felt I had been privileged to be one small part of a miracle.

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